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The Rissington Rag - June 2022

Posted on Wed June 1, 2022.

News, views, offers and fun from Rissington Inn, Hazyview, Mpumalanga, South Africa

A Warm Welcome to the June 2022 Rissington Rag … please read on ...

Words of Wisdom :

Welcome! This is a good and varied Rag with something for everyone and with some fine prizes and special offers too, so make yourself a coffee (or pour yourself a whisky if you prefer) and settle in. With the Rag coming out only every three months, there is plenty to talk about, as ever, and I hope once again that we manage to throw you a few happy rays of light and sunshine with our stories of small hotel life in rural South Africa. You may not always agree with us, but hopefully we will amuse and entertain. Maybe even occasionally enlighten? So, let’s start with a couple of quotes, picked up during the last week:

Some are wise, some otherwise” : from the superb track Ripples by Genesis (the greatest rock group ever, not the opening book of the Bible, although the quote might just as aptly be applied to Adam and Eve – and I am not taking sides as to who was which).

Then, closer to home. A (very wise) quote this Monday from Sipho Mhlanga, Rissington’s driver of 27 years and the same age as me. He asked me “Why are young people so much older than us?” It is such a great question! Why indeed? 

Send me a good quote that I have never heard before and the top entry will win a free weekend at Rissington and maybe (huge honour) even make it onto the loo wall. Email to [email protected]

The final throes:

I know you are probably all pandemicked out – everyone is – but unless you are reading this in Shanghai (or in Pyongyang, where we actually do have one reader, although I have no idea who it could be so please get in touch if it is you) we have now seemingly emerged once and for all, so it’s Look-On-The-Bright-Side-Time …

We block out trauma. It’s an obvious psychological fact and it is borne out by the way we deal with not talking about Covid by name. We vaguely say that “it’s been a tricky couple of years” or we euphemistically talk about “the recent mess/complications/situation”. We even find it easier to talk non-specifically about ‘the pandemic’ rather than to use the word ‘Covid’. It’s the new C-word, in the same way that some people avoid the use of the word ‘cancer’ for fear of upsetting people. Well, I know from experience that cancer is a real word and doesn’t need a euphemism that somehow denies or belies its existence. Covid is the same.

So let’s talk positively about Covid for a second. Obviously there have been many, many downsides and, like almost everyone, Team Rissington has lost a number of friends, some family and a few much-loved guests to this awful ‘situation’. In the Rag we did, however, promise ourselves all the way through that we would look for the positives and here are some more:

The game is abundant – never has there been so much wildlife on the move at Rissington and, as regulars will remember, it all started just over two years ago when the footfall fell dramatically as a result of Covid. The uptick continues though and we catch our porcupine (or one of them, because we know they are breeding here) on the Bushcam almost every night. I love the way he's bustling along in this picture! We also see an assortment of mongoose – slender, white-tailed and banded – and civets and genets as well as both red and grey duiker. The most unusual sighting was by a recent guest who swore they saw a lion eating a monkey on the Rissington property. It turned out from the spoor that it was probably a caracal (similar to a lynx) but even that is a wonderful sighting. The presence of these fascinating and secretive creatures is a great indication of sound biodiversity. I am also happy to report that our spotted eagle owls are active again so we can expect them to lay in their usual spot in about 12 weeks’ time. Cue: many more cute owl photos in September …

Wordle – Onto another type of game. Covid gave us Wordle. Can you now imagine a world without Wordle? What we do without the greatest word game ever, to accompany our tea and jelly babies at the end of a day’s work? I even proudly got one of them (the word was SHINE) at the first guess. What a euphoric feeling! A hole in one!

And have you tried WORLDLE (with the extra L)? It is Wordle’s geographical sibling in which you have to identify a daily country by its outline and without being able to see any of its neighbours. It is surprisingly difficult to build up a streak, but at the same time, it is also easier to get a country in one. So, swings and roundabouts. Give it a go. It is simultaneously frustrating and hugely rewarding.

Recalibration – For Rissington, as for everyone, Covid has been a major reboot; a bizarre and very expensive reset. Although some of our staff left us and went onto other things, we have also found some wonderful new youngsters to replace them and you will find that the list of their names has finally returned to the sign-off at the bottom of the Rag. Look for the familiar people and look forward to meeting the new ones too and also to seeing our newly refurbished original rooms (photo below).

Friends – This has been a chance to think about what is really important as well as to see our friends and families up-close at (mostly) their best and (sometimes) their worst. Even during the two-year hiatus, I found that I enjoyed myself most of the time and, looking back now, I am firmly convinced that  this reboot was a good thing in many more ways than it was a bad one. I know myself and my family better. I know the Rissington team better and my respect for them all has grown immeasurably. Hard times bring out the best in people. It sounds trite, but it is true.

Working from home – We have upped our game at Rissington when it comes to providing for those who are now working from home (or working from wherever-they-are). So often now, guests here tell us that they just need to do a bit of work before going out into the sunshine for the day. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Never mind the hashtag #ilivewhereyouvacation. At Rissington, you can now work and vacation simultaneously. Here’s a piece from The Spectator entitled ‘Why work from home when you can work from Paradise?’. Why indeed? And paradise is just outside Hazyview. Who would have thought it? Read it HERE

Privacy – Masked balls (no pun intended) have always been popular and it is an unlikely extension of the concept for us to be able to shop incognito, avoid our nemeses and (presumably, for those to whom it applies) pick up a bottle of brandy or a packet of condoms (or préservatifs, as the coy French rather wonderfully call them) without looking for a brown paper bag to smuggle them out in. With faces masked, we can swing the contraband around with abandon because no-one will know it was us. We are also no longer subjected to a stranger’s halitosis and, because we no longer have to shake hands, we can avoid accidentally wearing another person’s cheap Cologne, just from shaking the mitt with which they thoughtlessly applied it.

In the swing of things :

Many people ask me what it has been like for tourism but I can tell you nothing as, under psychiatric advice, we are blocking out that trauma. I can however tell you a bit about what it is like to be back to ‘normal’ now that we are getting to that stage. Despite our best preparations and two years of upgrades and upkeep, on our first busy night we dealt with the following:

·         The removal of three frogs from a (French, ironically) batrachophobe’s outside shower

·         The electric gate developing a mind of its own and closing on a guest’s car, causing it a nasty scrape down the side

·         A staff member (no names) getting locked into a guest’s room when trying to fix the lock from the inside and not having a phone with her so she could call for someone to release her

·         A German guest asking a new staff member for Chianti (which we don’t have) and getting a shandy instead

·         A blocked lavatory resulting in my being up to my ankles in the very undesirable substances which emerged from the shower drain when I unblocked the loo

And that was all in one hour on one evening and with us already being well-prepared. Imagine if we hadn’t been...

But there are still the impossible complainers:

We had an unusual situation with one family (luckily only one) in which the father had a bizarre habit of complaining before anything went wrong. “Please take me to my room; I hope the bed is not going to be un comfortable”, “I would like to order the steak but I don’t want to wait too long”, “I hope you are not short of brandy because I don’t want you to run out”, “My wife likes vegetarian food so I hope your vegan meals don’t include meat.” Well, it was extraordinary. His most bizarre request was that we create a topiary in the bougainvillea in front of his room so that he could take a more interesting sunset photograph. We sent Lucky down with the secateurs, but how much easier it would have been, had we been warned in advance of the required shrub-shape.

It’s TripAdvisor gone mad. Maybe people should be able to review in advance what they think might be likely to go wrong on their holidays. It would empower us to prevent problems, a bit like time travel.

Can you believe that we have suffered TripAdvisor for more than ten years now? I do think it has lost a bit of its punch, recently though and we are getting wonderful reviews and have won the Travellers Choice Award for 2022. For a bit of random fun, take a look at THIS LINK to see some of the more extraordinary complaints from various review sites where people have taken a pop at about forty truly iconic venues. Many of them are utterly bonkers. Give it a read.

Here (left) is my own personal favourite recent discovery in a hotel. I know many hoteliers have complained about an increase in pilferage by guests (I have mentioned it before in the Rag) but surely it’s a bit extreme to put padlocks on the loo paper? And we have a total of 26 loo-roll holders at Rissington. Imagine being the cleaner responsible for monitoring and locating all those padlock keys every day! (Parents of teenagers might find this technique useful at home).

Terrorising the newbies:

There’s another fascinating type of guest which also needs to be brought to your attention and I fear that they too might possibly have been emboldened and empowered by Covid. We call them the scaremongers and it works something like this…

Two unconnected couples are sitting at different tables on the sunny Rissington stoep after a lovely, long drawn-out breakfast. They are comparing holidays. Couple Number One is on their first trip to the country. Couple Number Two has been to South Africa many times before:

Couple Number One: Hello. Have you been enjoying your holiday?

Couple Number Two: Oh, yes, but then we have been here many many times before.

One: Oh. This is our first time.

Two: Oh. It’s our sixteenth time (then aside) or is it seventeenth dear, I can’t remember?

One: Have you been to Rissington before?

Two: Yes. Many times. Dozens. We were recommended by our tour operator. They always make all our plans for us because we always deal with them and they have become friends of ours because we spend so much money with them every year.

One: We are going to Kruger.

Two: Oh. We have been to Kruger seventy-four times (then aside) or is it seventy-five dear, I can’t remember? But we have also been to a lot of private game reserves in the Sabi-Sand and the Timbavati and so on. Almost all of them in fact. Our room in the one we stayed in last week was about ten times the size of this building. We kept losing each other. I think Elton John stays there (then aside) or was it Barry Manilow, dear, I can’t remember? It was simply huge. We lost the binoculars for two days.

One: We are very excited. We saw a lot of impala the other day. A lot. Just coming out of the airport. It was wonderful. But we are a bit nervous of the lions. Have you seen a lion?

Two: Oh yes. We have seen millions of impala. We don’t really look at them any longer. Our ranger usually finds us plenty of lions too. And leopards. And cheetahs. You are safe though, as long as you have a good ranger and tip him well. And don’t stand up or make a noise or wear a red shirt or dangle your fingers over the side or click loudly with your camera because then the lions will know you are there and they might get agitated.

One: What do you mean by ‘agitated’?

Two: Well, I mean it is very unlikely, but they might go for you.

One: I don’t think we really want to see lions up-close. Or elephants. I saw a news story about an elephant which charged the fence in San Diego zoo. That looked right scary.

Two: Yes. You need to be an expert to go on one of these drives. And it also gets very cold.

One: Cold? I thought Africa was going to be hot!

Two: Oh no. It gets very cold in the evening in the riverbeds. You will need a warm jersey and coat. Maybe two or three actually. We always have a woolly hat, as well, and thermal underwear (aside) don’t we, dear? Yes, and a scarf and woolly fingerless mittens. And and and …

One: I think we might need to go shopping.

Two: Good idea. But hold on, we have plenty more advice. Don’t forget insect spray especially because of all the malaria.  And snake repellent – we have a special make.  Maybe also get a catapult to stop the monkeys stealing your clothes and pepper spray in case of any other animal attacking you …

Couple Number One leaves, a very much whiter shade of pale. Couple Number Two, smiling and slightly smug, orders another cup of coffee. (Don’t be that person. Be nice to the first-timers. They are scared enough of the potholes and all the foreign people, let alone the lions, snakes, spiders and the cold …)

Not to mention the dogs:

Rissington has become famous for its friendly dogs over the years and the current pair is no exception. Rusty (the Jack Russell) is a solitary soul and enjoys his own (and my) company but three-year-old Bruno (pictured on watch, outside the bar) is on the other end of the scale. His neediness takes a little explaining – he is a rescue dog from the SPCA, found wandering on a dirt road outside Nelspruit at the age of about two months – but his breed is fascinating. Most people presume that a canis africanis is merely a polite word for a ‘pavement special’ mongrel, but the truth couldn’t be further from that. The canis africanis is a breed with a number of different possible appearances and colourings, a bit like a lurcher. Also like a lurcher, the canis is fast – Bruno’s running gait is similar to that of a cheetah and he is an exceptional hunter. They are also loyal and gentle but very hyperactive. In fact, they are said not to grow up until they are seven or eight years old, a prospect which fills Rusty (Bruno’s favourite prey) with a terrible dread, I am sure. You can read more on the breed HERE

So next time you see a dog in early African art, cave paintings or hieroglyphics, remember that you are not looking at any old mutt. You are looking at one of the oldest breeds in the world, first identified almost 6000 years ago. The canis africanis. The Bruno breed.

Continuing the educational theme, here’s a good map :

We all love a good map and we have found some (actually we have found a hundred) spectacular examples for you here: Amazing World Maps

I mean, for example, look at the Empire Map from 1700 above, then check to see more modern maps of the richest, happiest and most boozy countries in the world. Check out a map of all the countries Britain has invaded throughout history (90% of the world!). And how many countries do you think there are that drive on the left? Or still use the Imperial Measures System? Click on the link and look at literally dozens of fascinating maps. Hours of fun and in some cases, total amazement.

New offerings at Rissington:

I was amusingly accused by one reader, after the last Rag, of using it for hard-sell tactics but part of the purpose of writing you this letter every three months is obviously to entice you to visit so (no hard-sell intended) here are just a couple of ideas from Rissington which might appeal:

·         The new daily table d’hôte menu is extremely popular and we also love it because it gives us a chance to reintroduce old favourites from time to time. Who remembers these past hits: Smoked Trout Cheesecake, Beef Carbonnade, Grilled Aubergine, Avocado Rissington …? Well, they now all emerge from the kitchen again from time to time. There are also some new ideas. A delicious Ceviche, for example, some lovely Lamb Chops and a very tasty Trout en Papillote. Of course, the menu changes every day so you never know what you will be offered. It’s just the luck of the draw! There is also a daily vegan option at every course and we always cater for the gluten-free brigade.

·         Mountain biking is a hugely popular sport worldwide these days and South Africa is no exception. The advantage of mountain biking, of course, is that it doesn’t hold up the traffic like road cycling and – in case you hadn’t noticed – the people are much nicer. Road cyclists rather look down on us mountain bikers, but they are just jealous because we don’t inhale exhaust fumes all the time and we have so much more fun (a bit like ski-boarders looking down on proper skiers and vegans looking down on vegetarians). Anyway, Rissington has a few mountain bikes available for interested guests and there are also venues in Sabie and in Hoedspruit hiring them out for use on the truly superb tracks that are marked out in both places. Let us know when you book and we will arrange a day of mountain biking for you in properly beautiful South African mountains and wildlife estates.

·         Activities are what Hazyview is all about, so we are putting together some great packages for the website to enable you to book an all-inclusive weekend with meals and activities. More details will follow on our social media pages and the next Rag, so keep an eye or ask us in the meantime to quote for you. We will keep you busy for as many days as you want.

·         Rissington very rarely hosts events but, like every good rule, there are exceptions. So that other guests are not swamped, we don’t generally accept groups of more than eight people at any time (twelve if they are family) but we do enjoy a challenge so remember that, if you take over the whole lodge as with the recent wedding we hosted, we will happily host your birthday/anniversary/wedding/bar-mitzvah here and we will make it truly memorable, as the photos show, left and at the bottom. Remember to book a long way in advance though, to be sure to find an empty patch with no future bookings already being held. You must also take all the rooms (maximum 50 people) and you must stay three days or more. Look at the pictures of the wedding on our social media feeds. Rissington is a beautiful venue for just about any celebration.

Social media/bookings :

Firstly, a reminder that Rissington has withdrawn from booking-dot-com and reservations may no longer be made through that site. This has been a very popular decision with all our supporters and we are sticking with it. We were just so tired of hearing that our guests had been ripped off or conned by that particular outfit. We prefer you to book direct with us or through a reputable tour operator or South African online booking site. Personal contact is crucially important these days.

Also be sure to follow us, either on Facebook or Instagram if you use those social media forums. The links are on this webesite, where you are reading this Rag. Take a look around. You will see wonderful photos, keep up with news and hear early about all our most recent special offers. You will also get to grips with some fascinating hashtags and see how they work as well as how they sometimes really don’t. I described our recent improvements to our rooms as a #facelift and the next thing we find ourselves being followed by dozens of cosmetic surgeons, so if you’re looking for a collagen implant or a tummy tuck, give us a shout. We have accidentally become connected with some of the world’s finest practitioners!

The Where in The World Competition :

We had so many not-quite-accurate-enough answers to the March competition where I was on horseback near Vaalwater in the Waterberg that we eventually put it out again on Social Media to find a winner and did so in Rissington stalwarts Herman and Sonja Kieft who won themselves the three-night prize.

This time, we have a real challenge for you … which South African town is shown in the stunning sunrise photo below? As ever, the winner will get three nights for two at fully-refurbished new-look facelifted Rissington, including bed and breakfast. A name will be drawn from the hat on the 30th June 2022 and announced on Facebook, Instagram on that date as well as in the next Rag.

And the winning Dad joke:

How much does a pirate pay for earrings? A buccaneer … (groan)

Thank you, Sarah. I got it – and thanks for the explanation too, just in case I hadn’t understood the joke. Our currency is often called a buck in South Africa too. In fact, ours even has a buck on the coin. An impala. The two-rand coin has a buck too – a kudu. And a Krugerrand, if you every get hands on one, has a springbuck. In the meantime, you haven’t won (as we say) big bucks but you have won two nights for two at Rissington. Thanks to everyone who took part. It was a popular competition and no, the winning joke has nothing to do with Johnny Depp, a pirate who clearly has just won big bucks. Somehow!

Let’s talk about the weather :

I know that no-one ever says that the weather is entirely normal but we are now heading for that fantastic ‘normal weather’ time of year, where the sun shines every day until September. You may have read about the recent horrific floods in KwaZulu-Natal though. That weather seems finally to have passed but the extraordinary falls of rain and hail in Hazyview during May (normally a dry month) have left us not only with unprecedentedly green lawns and trees still full of leaves but we are also seeing those trees (particularly our locally most prevalent tree, the silver clusterleaf) budding already, where they should be bare for another couple of months. We have had so much sunshine and rain that, as we head into autumn, the trees seem to think that it is already springtime!

A special offer (actually two) :

For bookings from now until 7th July, we have two specials for you:

Weekend Special : R550 per person per night bed and breakfast

School Holidays 7-night Special : R5900 per person per week including all meals. Children’s accommodation free of charge.

New direct bookings only. Email [email protected]

A final compliment:

To the Englishman, who wandered up to me after breakfast one morning last week and said to me: “My wife and I are going out for the day but I am just going to go and clean my teeth first” – you made my day. You clearly felt totally at home here and that is simply wonderful. Thank you. I giggled about it for days.

See you all soon but in the meantime, don’t forget to clean your teeth.

Chris, Shirley, Natasha, Thobeka, Dudu; Gertrude and her former Cybele colleagues Angel and Mildred; Philippa, Yvonne, Patience; Nonhlanhla and her cousin Cervin, Ntombifuthi and her sister Nokuthula; Betty and her sister Lilian; Aubrey and his brother Selby and nephew Lucky. Talk about keeping it in the Rissington family – eat your heart out, Kardashians! We have the Khozas, the Shabangus, the Mashabas … and it’s better than any reality show …